Heller calls for earmark ban in upcoming Congress


As Republicans consider how to exercise their new power in the House, Rep. Dean Heller said today he is in favor of banning spending bill earmarks during the Congress that will convene in January.

House Republicans set a self-imposed earmark moratorium in the session that will end with the upcoming post-election lame duck session. Heller is calling for the House to continue the moratorium into next year, and that the Senate should follow suit.

“The earmark process has become a symbol of the glut in our nation’s Capitol," Heller said in a statement. "Congress must rein in reckless spending. This is why I will not request earmarks for the following fiscal year, and I call on all the members of the Nevada delegation to join me in this effort."

Heller requested and obtained earmarks in his first term, including $31.8 million in 2008, according to the Gannett News Service. But according to his spokesman Stewart Bybee, Heller, now entering his third term, believes the fiscal landscape has changed, and he has become a hardliner on the topic.

House Republicans will vote next week on the ban, which would cover funding that is directed by lawmakers to favored home state projects. In the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is calling for the same, which is putting party leaders in a tight spot, according to a piece today in Politico.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. has signed onto DeMint's no-earmark plan for 2012, his spokeswoman said. Most recently, however, Ensign has requested earmarks in 2011 spending bills for the military and transportation projects.

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate has taken steps to curb earmarks and to make that spending more transparent to constituents. But, according to Jon Summers, Reid believes banning earmarks would be bad for Nevada.

"As a smaller state, it is not in Nevada’s best interests to reject federal funding all together," Summers said. "Congressionally directed funding, or earmarks, have brought more than $100 million for Nevada military projects last year alone. That’s on top of funding for roads, clean water projects in the rurals, and the southern Nevada veterans hospital."